Cassidy Williams

Software Engineer in Chicago

Cassidy's face

Finding a Mentor


I feel like I see a, “how do I find a mentor?” post or an email asking about mentorship twice a week at the very least.

I wrote this to answer those questions.

Finding a mentor isn’t some magical moment where you meet and someone puts their hand on your head saying, “I will mentor you, my child.”

pic

Finding a mentor is really just a matter of keeping communication lines open. Once you meet someone, continue talking and building a relationship with them. There’s so many ways to do this. Go to a meetup, chat with people in forums or Facebook groups, have a coffee chat, video chat someone, email someone (as if they’re your pen pal, not like a cover letter).

What you should look for in a mentor

  • Someone who wants a mentee. Sometimes, you won’t get a reply to that email asking for coffee. Sometimes, people won’t chat with you. That’s okay. You want someone who wants the relationship.
  • Someone you can be friends with. Your mentor isn’t just someone you suck advice from. You should enjoy your relationship with them, they should be someone around whom you can be yourself. If you have a very formal, not really comfortable relationship, you won’t be able to easily converse with each other to get the guidance for which you’re seeking.
  • Someone who doesn’t compete with you. You want someone that can help celebrate your accomplishments, not feel threatened by them.
  • Someone who drives you to succeed. A good mentor will be someone who can push you to be the best that you can be, even if it’s just by finding someone else that can answer your questions, or by just being a good role model.

How to be a good mentee

  • Don’t just suck information out of your mentor. Nobody likes someone who is just in it for themselves, who is selfish with their information. Build a relationship that’s give and take with your mentor, don’t just email them once a month with your latest problem.
  • Lift as you climb. As you move up with your career, help people who are like you who could use your own advice. A great mentee gives back.
  • Accept things your mentor tells you, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Sometimes it’s hard to absorb frank feedback. But, it’s necessary to do so if you really want to internalize the information you’re getting. Sometimes things don’t go the way you want, and sometimes you just want to be further along, like your mentor. It can be frustrating sometimes when things don’t go your way, but trust the advice you get. Sure, that doesn’t mean you have to follow all of it, but trust that it’s coming from someone who cares.

Thank you to my mentors

My mentors are amazing women who I look up to every single day as they’re making the world a better place. I’m going to link to their Twitter handles here, and tell you how I met each of them.

  • Jennifer Arguello - I met Jennifer at the White House Tech Inclusion Summit, where we hit it off talking about diversity in tech and her time with the Latino Startup Alliance. I made sure to keep in touch since I would be interning in the Bay Area, where she’s located, and we’ve been chatting ever since.
  • Kelly Hoey - I met Kelly at a women in tech hackathon, and then she ended up being on my team on the British Airways UnGrounded Thinking hackathon. She and I both live in NYC, now, and we see each other regularly at speaking engagements and chat over email about networking and inclusion.
  • Rane Johnson - I met Rane at the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing in 2011, and then again when I interned at Microsoft in 2012. She and I started emailing and video chatting each other during my senior year of college, when I started working with her on the Big Dream Documentary and the International Women’s Hackathon at the USA Science and Engineering Festival.
  • Ruthe Farmer - I first met Ruthe back in 2010 during my senior year of high school when I won the Illinois NCWIT Aspirations Award. She and I have been talking with each other at events and conferences and meetups (and even just online) almost weekly since then about getting more girls into tech, working, and everything in between.

These women have helped me probably more than they can imagine, even when they’re just a listening ear when I’m asking endless questions about what I should do next with my career or how I should approach certain situations. They’re amazing, influential, and make a real difference in hundreds (even thousands) of lives with their work, and I strive to be like them someday.

I hope that you find someone like them to work with. It’s, in the realest sense of the phrase, life-changing.


View posts by tag

#advice #events #technical #learning #musings #meta #personal #work